This week, Mo Henderson continues the theme of ‘Blue’ with a reflection on the life cycle of the Peacock butterfly and how its “natural connection with the world around it” can serve as a reminder of our own purpose.
I recently saw a peacock butterfly. I can understand how it got that name, so beautiful, just like the colours in a male peacock’s feathers. This one had vivid blue spots on its wings, looking like eyes peering out at you from a bright crimson background. Its expression of life was breathtaking, how sad this wonderful creature’s life is all but a few fleeting weeks in spring. I looked up its life cycle.
‘In May, after mating, females lay their eggs in batches of up to 500. After a week or two the caterpillars hatch and spin a communal web in which they live and feed. As they grow, the caterpillars increasingly live in the open. They pupate alone, and adults emerge from July. The main priority is to feed-up before the winter hibernation, in dark crevices, sheds and tree holes. Adults emerge again in spring to mate and breed’. 1
That evening I recalled the sight of this stunning little creature and pondered on its existence. Expressing life in that way appears to have meaning because of its functioning and natural connection with the world around it. A butterfly is not searching for meaning, it simply ‘is’, it has nothing to hold on to or search for. It simply responds to the need of the moment. How easy it seemed for this creature to flow with nature, without present concerns based on past memory or future possibilities.
‘I suggest that enlightenment and meaning are functions of the present moment’ 2
As a human being and not a butterfly, I often wonder if my own authentic expression of life is ‘seen’. I’m consciously aware of having an individual story, based on what I have experienced and how I perceive and remember it. I’m sure these elements must intrude on my response to the needs of the present moment. Sometimes I feel distracted from ‘seeing’ what needs doing. Is our real nature always present like the butterfly’s?
At a personal level I believe each of us has a part to play and discovering what that is, and how we can naturally function to express that in a much bigger picture, is a lifetime’s work. This is challenging, particularly in making the ‘right’ choices. Sometimes, I can all but wonder how much my choices will help ourselves and others. There may be a sense of knowing but no absolute certainty.
The daily practice of Zazen (sitting meditation), simply learning to accept and be with what arises in the present moment, is enough to help us see how to respond by making good choices 3.
When I realise I have made a mistake, is this still expressing life as best I can? I believe meditation practice is an expression of our true nature, by giving space to be with and accept life as it is. This daily practice, which permeates into our lives, helps us to ‘see’ ways to help us learn from mistakes and respond to the conditions which arise. For me, rather than blaming myself or others, it has meant having faith in the practice and trusting myself to respond in helpful ways.
Sometimes life seems to flow easily and other times the work which comes is challenging. I am not the butterfly with the deep blue eyes on its wings, but there is a wish to try to ‘see’ with eyes that look closer at expressing what true nature is.
1 The RSPB Wildlife Charity
2 Rev Master Daishin Morgan (Page 63 Buddha Recognises Buddha).
3 Rev Master Daishin Morgan (Sitting Buddha-Zen Meditation for Everyone)